How Do Heat Pumps Work?

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Have you ever wondered how heat pumps manage to maintain your home’s temperature? With energy prices on the rise, these appliances are gaining popularity, but you might be fuzzy on just how they function. Read on for a handy explanation of everything you need to know about heat pumps.

What Exactly Is a Heat Pump?

Essentially, a heat pump is an appliance that transfers heat energy from one place to another. It works a lot like your refrigerator, using refrigerant gas and a compressor to draw thermal energy from the air outside and move it somewhere else. The key difference is that a fridge just cools things down. Heat pumps can also reverse cycle and act like a heater. Your heat pump has an indoor unit mounted on a wall or floor that’s connected to an outdoor unit. The outdoor unit holds the compressor, expansion valve, evaporator, and condenser coils. The refrigerant flows between these components, absorbing or releasing heat along the way.

How Do They Heat Your Home?

In winter, your heat pump goes through a refrigeration cycle in reverse. The cold refrigerant flows through the indoor coils. A fan blows across the coils, warming the air which then circulates through your ducts. Meanwhile, the liquid refrigerant absorbs heat from outside air at the evaporator. The warm gas gets compressed, dumping that thermal energy into the indoor air stream. Even when it’s chilly out, there’s still lots of free ambient heat for your heat pump to harvest. Every bit helps lower costs compared to electric resistance heating.

How Do They Cool Your Home?

Summer cooling happens through a normal refrigeration cycle. The warm liquid refrigerant inside the indoor unit absorbs heat from the interior air blown over the coils. This causes it to vaporize into a gas which gets pumped outside. At the outdoor condenser, the hot gas goes through thermal compression, dumping built-up heat outside. What’s left behind is a liquid again at a cooler temperature. The cycle keeps repeating, pulling warmth out of your home. Heat pumps use 30% to 50% less electricity for cooling than conventional AC units, according to A recent study also found that air conditioners release about 100 million tons of carbon dioxide into the air annually. On the other hand, a heat pump doesn’t release any carbon dioxide!

With their reversible heating and cooling capabilities, heat pumps provide year-round comfort. Units today come with variable speeds to finely control temperatures while maximizing efficiency. If you’re ready to learn more about whether a heat pump is right for your home, reach out to Wilson Heating and Air Conditioning today.